Hope lives when people remember. Simon Wiesenthal
I love history – well, maybe not so much in high school, but since growing up, it enthralls me. English history, Russian history, American history……learning from the past and reaching to the future. So, on the way to the Museum of Tolerance yesterday, I didn’t expect to be surprised by any of the facts about WWII and specifically the Holocaust. I expected to be moved, to be challenged……but not to really learn something more than I have already learned by searching out history.
Of course, you can probably tell that I was wrong! SEEING real people, their real stories, made it much more REAL to me…..not some historical occurrence that seems to have a clinical aspect to it. But these were people – it could have been ME!
I had the privilege of sitting for almost two hours listening to Mary Natan (formerly Maniusia Rybowski), a woman that, at the age of 10, was forced into a Jewish Ghetto in Poland with her family. I heard harrowing stories of how that was, her need to smuggle food back into the ghetto so her family would not starve, the horrible – and kind – treatment of Nazi soldiers, her time in the death camps…..and so much more. Part of me began to see this was not “just history”, but reality…..and not that long ago! And part of me was so amazed by this woman…….partly because I knew survivors of the Holocaust are getting pretty old (she is 80) and this opportunity would someday end. And partly because, although I heard horrible aspects of her life, she seriously was not bitter. In my own life – with trials that pale in comparison to Mary’s – I have strong areas of bitterness. Yet Mary did not. I look forward to learning more about this……
The museum also moved me…….it took this information and made in PERSONAL. I was sitting there, hearing real stories, being amazing that – yes – how could so many “ordinary people” like you and me see this persecution and not do anything? How could so many countries not want to help the Jewish People who were trying to flee from the persecution? I began to feel the helplessness that existed – something that was just a theory prior to this.
And then it got more emotion – walking into the model of Auschwitz…….a sign saying “millions walked through this gate to their death”. Standing, looking at the model with synthetic ashes to represent the bodies that had been burned, the museum volunteer explained the two ways to enter the camp – those that were able bodied and those that were not. Children, women with children, those 40 and older – they were not able bodies and would be most likely be killed immediately. I stood there, feeling a shadow of the terror that they must have felt, realizing I would be killed and the children with me would be, too. For no other reason than a decision by someone who hated me. I could not stop the tears, which got more prevalent as I viewed the whips used on the people (some still stained by blood), the braids of children who had them cut off before having their heads shaved prior to entering the gas chamber. The reality of this horror became a fixture in my heart immediately and I could not stop feeling the pain of the millions who actually lived this.
I could go on and on…….and I might write more later. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND this museum! It is not just sadness, but encourages you that so many survived the hatred that was intent on ending those that did not meet “the standards”.
Yes I will write more. But for now I must go…..